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Author Topic: Up-Side-Down Tomatoes  (Read 17 times)
Patty S
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January 01, 2009, 11:01:53 PM
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« on: December 29, 2008, 01:44:33 PM »

A couple of years ago, I heard about & saw pictures of tomatoes growing up-side-down & it looked like a fun novelty. Having extra cherry tomato plants that we'd started from seed, I knew we had the main ingredient to make a few, so we decided to try it.  Since my Granddaughter, Kayla, always spends a lot of time here during the summer, it was a great project for us to do together. . We made 3 of them, cuz we thought they'd make nice gifts when/if they "took".

After seeing pics of people's up-side-down tomatoes, I asked around, but no one could tell me why 5 gallon buckets were always used. It seems to me, since tomato plants don't have massive root systems, that such large (& heavy) containers are unnecessary, so the first thing we did was to go shopping at the Dollar Store for containers & wire plant hangers. We found some nice looking 2 gallon plastic wastebaskets, & began our project.  We drilled three small holes at equal distances near the rim of the containers, for the plant hangers, & drilled a larger hole in the bottom of each container with a hole cutter.

I'd read a suggestion somewhere, about sealing a PVC fitting in at the bottom of the container to prevent the water from running down the stem of the plant, onto the leaves, & that made sense to me.  After searching around in our garage, I couldn't find one the same size as the hole we'd cut, so I took "discarded" plastic shower heads apart & used the outside casings. (It pays not to throw anything away!) We used a glue gun to seal them in place around the center hole of each container. (I had only two shower heads, so for one of the planters I used a medicine bottle with the bottom cut out... It was a lot less work than tearing a shower head apart!)
Then, for lack of Styrofoam peanuts, we broke Styrofoam sheets into chunks, to cover the bottoms of the containers. *I'd never seen any instructions that mentioned doing that, but it just seemed like the right thing to do, so the water that couldn't drain out wouldn't be touching the soil... cuz tomatoes shouldn't have their feet wet all the time.
We used a wide cotton shoestring, tying it to the stem below the lowest branch, then Kayla carefully wrapped it around as she worked it up the stem.
She lost only a few pieces of the leaflets as she threaded the plant through the hole, guiding it from the inside of the pot while tugging at the shoestring when she felt resistance as the leaf junctions began to enter the hole. (The shoestring was a big help, as she was able to unwind it as it came through... which worked out sort of like dental floss will, to remove a ring from a finger when it's too tight!)
After threading the leaves of the tomato start through the shower head casing & out through the hole, we propped the container on two tall cans, so as not to break the plant.  The root ball rested on the glued-in shower head casing, while Kayla filled the container with soil.
Had I thought to take a picture of what was happening on the inside of the container while she threaded the plant through the hole, it would have shown the root ball still in the shape of the Styrofoam cup that we started the seed in.

We used  regular potting soil that we'd mixed with vermiculture from our worm bin & Perlite..

« Last Edit: December 29, 2008, 02:31:33 PM by Patty S » Logged
Patty S
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« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2008, 02:02:47 PM »

Our containers looked too plain without plants in the tops, so we went looking for plants that would be happy sharing the same container with a tomato.

We needed to find plants that:
Liked full sun
Didn't have large root systems that would crowd the tomato roots
Weren't fussy about having a lot of water (*When tomatoes start forming, they'll split if over watered.)

For this one, we chose some Fairy Jade from a planter in the kitchen window
Then she threaded the wires of the plant hanger through the little holes we'd drilled around the rim, & twisted them back around a few times, with pliers.
Our finished projects looked like this:
The three containers are topped with Fairy Jade plants, Ice plants & Sedum.

Until the fruit forms & weighs the vines down, they tend to turn upward & reach for the sun. I heard that to prevent the vines from breaking under the weight of the fast-growing fruit later on, many people hang fishing weights on them, training them to grow downward. When the vines were still young & started turning upward, I guess I thought they would straighten out immediately, & loaded too much weight on the main branch of one of our plants... it broke, the first time the wind blew! The next year, I used "discarded" keys for weights, as it's easier to control the amount of weight on the different size branches.

Besides weighting the branches down better. we learned several other things from our first year of planting up-side-down tomatoes, so we made a few changes the following year. Since we still had two of the planters from the year before, we emptied them out & scrubbed them up. (Always a must, when reusing planters & pots.)

The second year, we bought Cherry Tomato plants from a local plant farm & stripped the lower leaves off, so they could be planted "deep". (As you may already know, roots will form on any part of the tomato stem that's in contact with the soil.)  The shower head casings worked out well in the planters during the first year, but the glue gun glue didn't hold the seal well during the entire growing season, so we used aquarium sealer the next year.  Also, since our plants were a little larger, we had to find a different way to get the branches through the hole.  That was accomplished by gently wrapping the plant foliage with plastic wrap before threading, & there was minimal damage to the leaflets.

The Styrofoam chunks seemed to work well at the bottom of the containers, so we repeated that step. We started with fresh potting soil again, with the Perlite & vermiculture added.

We had already decided to use the same plants at the tops of our containers, so when we emptied the round container, we left the Sedum as it was, so it would slip right back in. The Ice plant had gotten quite large & we had used some of it in other planters, so we spread it out at the top of the blue bucket, cuz we knew it would fill itself in, in no time at all.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2008, 02:33:25 PM by Patty S » Logged
Peggy (Admin)
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« Reply #2 on: December 30, 2008, 04:49:14 PM »

BG is such a cute kid!

Thank you, Patty for sharing this with everyone!!

Big Ol' Hugs, Peg

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